Monday, October 22, 2007

" The True Weapons of Mass Destruction" - Greed, Hatred and Delusion

'The Right View"

I was very disturbed to hear this story from a patient I saw last week at the clinic who presented with a hand infection. She was bitten a few days ago by another woman. This has apparently happened after a verbal argument between the two women. I was shocked to see this but I thought to myself .... this is a good example of human hatred at its best! Buddha said greed, hatred and delusion are the roots of all the unwholesome deeds in this world. I like to call these the "true weapons of mass destruction." People fight at home, at school or at work because of greed, hatred and delusion. People design chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction because of greed, hatred and delusion. Terrorist attacks on nations and war among countries happens because of greed, hatred and delusion. Whatever the unwholesome or so called "evil deeds" big or small that happen in this world can fit into three baskets of greed, hatred and delusion.

Buddha said when one understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of "Right View." "The Right View" is the first step in the noble eightfold pathway leading to ultimate happiness. The Buddha said arriving at the "Right View" is something like seeing the brightness in the sky when the sun is about to rise (see the above picture). When the sun is fully shining you have already arrived at the perfect wisdom, called Nirvana. To achieve this one has to follow The Noble Eightfold Path, the pathway that leads to ultimate happiness.

Now we know that greed, hatred and delusion are the root of unwholesome deeds. What are the unwholesome deeds?

1. Killing living beings is unwholesome

2. Taking what is not given is unwholesome

3. Misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome

4. False speech is unwholesome

5. Malicious speech is unwholesome

6. Harsh speech is unwholesome

7. Gossip is unwholesome

8. Covetousness is unwholesome

9. Ill will is unwholesome

10. Wrong view is unwholesome.

So the question is can we completely get rid of greed, hatred and delusion in our lives? Non -greed can be achieved by the practice of non-attachment (letting go). This may sound simple and you may say "it is no big deal , I can do it!" In real life you may find it is very difficult to do this when it is really the time "to let go." The deep cravings and attachments embedded in us may be very subtle, hard to see, yet they may be very strong. The practice of Vipassana meditation (see below) will help overcome these attachments and to help "let go" with ease.

Now how can we get rid of hatred? The antidote for anger and hatred is loving kindness. The loving kindness practice should start towards yourself first. This is the most important and the one that people often forget the most. This may be one reason why we find more and more depression in this world today. Once you start loving and appreciating yourself then you gradually spread loving kindness to your family, neighbours, ....and so on, and finally to the entire universe. I have discussed the practice of loving kindness and its benefits in a previous post (see below). The more you practice loving kindness the faster the anger or hatred will leave your heart. Buddha gave a beautiful simile about this. He said, "in some people anger is like a 'line drawn in the water'. It vanishes instantly as soon it appears. In others it is like a 'line drawn in the sand.' With time it will slowly fade away. In the third group it is like a 'line drawn on a rock.' It may take a lot of effort and time to get rid of anger. The first person has a lot of loving kindness in his heart whereas the last person needs to practice more loving kindness."

Finally, getting rid of delusion is the most difficult task. First of all it is a very difficult concept to understand. I will try to explain this clearly as possible in my own interpretation during this post. Delusion is also sometimes referred as "ignorance." This really means that we are really unaware of the true nature of our existence. To understand this you need to contemplate on how The Four Noble Truths work. Once we understand what is unhappiness and its cause,the craving, we have to find out how we can get rid of this craving. To do this we have to contemplate on how our six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue,body and mind) work together with the external sense objects (object, sound, smell, taste, touch, mental object) and how and where this craving arise. Then you can contemplate on impermanence, suffering, and non-self of these six senses and their external sense objects. If this process is practiced diligently with mindfulness, it will help to get rid of the craving that arises in them as we realize it is fruitless to suffer because of an impermanent nature that is anyway not in your control (non-self)). This will help us step outside of this constant struggle with desire and aversion. You can merely look at them as they are with equanimity and let them go. This is the practice of Vipassana meditation. This will be discussed later in detail in a future post. Some concepts like, sensory restrains, impermanence, suffering and non-self have been addressed already in some of my previous posts (see below).

Therefore one must understand, although it is difficult, it is not impossible to fully get rid of greed, hatred and delusion, if you walk the path laid down by the Buddha (The Noble Eightfold Path). He has done all the hard work for us, we just have to see it and walk on the path. Buddha very cleverly showed us how to travel this path with great precision. It is like a "do it yourself" project. Nobody can do it for you, not even Buddha. You have to travel this path alone by yourself and it will finally lead you to the ultimate happiness in this very life.

Related suttas:

Sammaditthi Sutta, Magga-vibhanga Sutta, Saleyyaka Sutta, Mula Sutta

Sammaditthi Sutta

Avijja Pahana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya IV)

Avijja Sutta- On Ignorance (Samyutta Nikaya XLV.1)

Avijja Sutta- On Ignorance (Samyutta Nikaya XXXV.80)

Pahana Sutta -On Giving Up

Related posts:

What is the matter with my grass? (Post on Loving Kindness)

Who will drink this medicine? (Post on The Four Noble Truths)

Why is this dog asking for more ? (Post on Sensory Restrains)

"Stop worrying about your body so are just renting it anyway" (Post on Anatta or Non-self)

Life is just like a "Morning Glory"- Mindfulness about life (Post on Impermanence)

Mindfulness About Life- "A Lesson From The Garden" (Post on Impermanence)


JD said...

Dr. Walpola-

I found your site through your post on Gary's Forest Wisdom site. I can see you have spent a lot of time and effort into making "Wisdom Through Mindfulness" as nice as it is. I just wanted to say that your site is really very nice and that I will continue to frequent it. I must confess that I never thought a Medical doctor would have time for Buddhism but you have shown me otherwise. There's no doubt that your patients benefit from your own mindfulness and understanding of the Dhamma. How fortunate they are! May you be well in your practice(clinical and spiritual).


Dr. Piyal Walpola said...

Hi Justin,
Thank you for the kind words. I think as a doctor you have an excellent opportunity to practice Dhamma. As physicians we see the suffering, aging, sickness (mental and physical) and even the death all the time. It is a wonderful way to mindfully reflect on life and its impermanence and the suffering. So I consider myself really blessed doing what I am doing right now and this makes me really happy. I hope you will continue to enjoy my blog.
Thank you again for your kind comments.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.